Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Can Social Networking be a career?

Perhaps it is already. I think it is clear that social networking is here to stay - and is not some Gen Y phenomenon. The platform begs for viral marketing, and saavy companies should be exploring hiring full-time social networkers, if they haven't already. Social networking takes time, as a previous post of mine already outlined. If your organization is pursuing social networking as a viral marketing campagin, it should dedicate sufficient staff to the project, and should maintain a legitimate presence. An employed social networker should meld into the community with an honest profile, making it known that they work for a commerical interst, but participating in non-commerical online activities. The goal is for the employed social networker to be the go-to person for that brand, and perhaps that product category, within a particular social network. This hands-off approach, soft-sell approach should alleviate any concerns by the community that the network is being polluted by advertisers.

Employed social networkers will do more than be the online point person for that product; they'll also bring valuable intelligence about the target community. It's the kind of intelligence that's hard to gain from surveys, polls and research, if not costly.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Obama + Internet Marketing = President?

The Internet has been used in political campaigns for quite some time now. And each new election cycle brings a new way of connecting with voters via technology. In the past, we've seen heavy emailing and use of meeting software to get voters together and to organize volunteers. Barack Obama's campaign has taken this type of technology-fueled campaigning to a new level this primary season. As outlined in this article, Obama has connected with voters via social networks, timely emailing, and even wikis. Yes, Obama's campaign is using public-facing wikis to share information among volunteer captains. I have to wonder if the wikis get spammed and what level of controls they have from non-volunteers contributing.

I think that Obama's success this primary season with these types of tools is a signal that these types of technologies are becoming more and more mainstream. And it is inevitable that political battles will be waged in the future in a digital environment. This article calls Obama's campaign a potential model for online politics. I don't think that assertion is all that far off. It helps Obama that a core constituency of his is young, educated voters - a group that grew up on technology and is comfortable with it. It'll be interesting to see if the next President, whoever he or she is, will use technology to communicate in non-election years. That, in my opinion, would signal that politics have indeed changed.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Gen Y scares me

I learned in a meeting this week that neighboring generations don't like each other. And I agree, because as a brooding Gen X'er, I don't care much for the "it's always somebody else's fault" Gen Y'ers. They also scare me because I have no idea how to monetize what they want. Gen Y'ers are nifty and talented, and consume and create media and content in so many ways, it's hard to keep up with them. Even moreso, they're so damn skilled at this stuff, it's hard getting them to pay for anything either. I stumbled upon a couple of articles about potential marketing techniques for Gen Y'ers.

The first - Yahoo Live - is portrayed as a kind of MySpace but the person is there live. Pretty cool, I have to say. But how do you market that? How do you possibly build a model that interacts with people on an individual business. Sure, it'd be great if you had the time and resources to do that, but it's completely impractical.

The second is, I think, the wave of the Internet future - the growth of widgets. This is nothing new, but is far from mainstream as well. It allows marketers to become a piece of the user's life, rather than asking the user to pause their life to consume your message. The key is developing a useful and interesting widget, and it really is a strategy better suited for information giants than retailers. However, it doesn't mean that you can't create some interesting metric, feed, etc. that's is tangentially related to your product to build a widget around.

Monday, May 5, 2008

An online economy

This article on ReadWriteWeb, The Emerging Main Street Web (which is actually Part II of a three-part series), talks about how the recessed economy could rebound through an uptick in online revenue generation. The article meanders quite a bit and lightly addresses several different areas that really would be better served with a more drawn-out analysis. The monetization of Web 2.0 is discussed. The author suggests that social networks could create buying blocs that negotiate with retailers, such as GM, to buy in bulk and thus get a discounted rate. I think, though, that this is the exact opposite of where online marketing is going. It's not about lumping individuals into a big bucket and dealing with them like marketers have in the past. No, it's about dealing with them on a more personalized and ultimately customized level than they ever have before. A new age model that makes more sense to me is if GM were to employ "social networkers" that unabashedley worked for the company but intertwined into the communities and became the go-to for car purchasing for that brand. Then, in a medium that a whole generation is becoming increasingly comfortable using, they can discuss details, exchange images and video, etc., and create a wholly customized experience and product for the individual.

To this point, large corporations have mostly missed on the personal detail needed to effectively communicate via social networks. Instead, they've put up a big brand banner and pushed out corporate branding and information with no face. They should enter the communities more gently, and portray themselves as a member of the community first (one that particpates fully in many non-commercial aspects of the community) and as a retailer second.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Don't rip your blog of its soul

As blogging becomes more and more commonplace in the corporate world and on business web sites, we are seeing numerous different approaches to this popular communication strategy. Ultimtely, however, blogs fall into two major categories: Those with a soul and those without. Blogs can't just be information waterfalls. That's what features and articles are for. You have to communicate the information in an interesting and consistent way. The original blog model - a solitary author offering editoral comments on the world/industry/whatever - is still the best. Check out this real estate blog - too many authors. There's too much going on. Don't invite a host of authors to muddle the message. Don't keep it anonymous and thus denying the audience of a connection. Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Keep it interesting.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

MSNBC and MySpace connect to build vacant election coverage

MSNBC has teamed up with MySpace to offer comprehensive election coverage that is meant to be interactive. It's a mess - Decision 2008. How foolish do you think we are that the myspace pages of the presidential candidates are anything other than the Web version of a political stump speech maintained by a college intern? It's disingenious and the exact kind of use of Web 2.0 that brings a corporate-spin to social networking.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Continuing the Social Networking argument

As more and more organizations attempt to enter the "social networking" market via developing their own at-home apps or jumping onto one of the already-established channels, we're learning that it's a difficult genre to market. One of the reasons that makes it so difficult to manage is that you're asking your audience to dedicate a large amount of time to the effort. This post from ReadWriteWeb chronicles just how much time people spend social networking and how much of an obstacle it is to the "normal person."

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ratemyprofessors.com gets it

Most students are familiar with ratemyprofessors.com as it is a resource for deciding which section of a class you should take based on student reviews of professors. If you can get past the gimmicky and somewhat unprofessional chili peppers and angry student reviews, there is real value there. The site has made an intelligent manuever by creating a facebook app for its rankings. This is a good example of working with the existing Web 2.0 framework to advance your value proposition.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Social Networking pitfall

It didn't take long for marketers to jump on the social networking phenomenon. MySpace, in particular, was inundated with glib marketing pages once it emerged from the depths of obscurity. This includes Fox's page for Chris Daughtry, Madonna, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Aquafina. These marketers were following an age-old principle of marketing - put your face in front of where the people are. But this type of marketing technique doesn't translate to social networking sites. Why? Because like much of the emerging Web 2.0 technologies, it requires honesty and interaction. Fox can't put up a page for an American Idol contestant because that's disingenious and insulting to the social networking community. No, the American Idol contestant has to put the page up themselves, and be willing to interact with fans.

Furthermore, any company that attempts to put up a brand, such as the Aquafina example, on a social networking site is completely missing the point. In order for this type of marketing to be effective, it has to be personal. Pepperidge Farms has recently attempted to connect on a personal level with its www.artofthecookie.com website that chronicles the travels of Sally Horchow. The idea is that Ms. Horchow is connecting with people in person and online, giving advice (she's a "lifestyle expert") and cookie recipes. Sure, the personal touch is nice, but who is Sally Horchow? Why would we add another site to visit for a cookie recipe?

Social networking marketing works best in two ways. If a brand can identify a willing spokesperson, or create one via a media blitz, and have that person interact on behalf of the brand without pushing the product, then they have the structure for a successful, interactive and potentially fruitful social marketing campaign. A second strategy is to create an associative app or website that social networking visitors can download and use. This can be as simple as a branded countdown to the Super Bowl or an addictive online game. Social networking is about interaction and for many, it's becoming a staple of everyday life. It's essential that marketers understand that it's best to mesh with the everyday habits and work within the exisiting framework than to build your own or just slap your brand in front of an existing audience. The failed and overtly aggressive efforts of marketers has helped lead a significant audience away from MySpace to other social networks. And social networkers will continue to move away from technologies that marketers sully with spam.

Friday, April 11, 2008

We know you can, but should you...

Ah, there's nothing like the virgin post of a new blog. No matter the subject and no matter the author, it's destined to be something that you look back on in time and chuckle to yourself at the naivety.

It doesn't take much effort to follow the flames of the latest hot Internet marketing topic. Whether it's something discussed at the countless Web 2.0 conferences popping up around the country or something you read on ReadWriteWeb, it lights that bulb above your head. The problem is that the Internet, and more specifically the Web, is growing at such an alarming rate that it is impossible for any Internet marketing department to implement every strategy. If you attempt to blog, and build videos for You Tube, and maintain a My Space presence, and create a group on Facebook, and Tweet about how useful your product is, and track your SEO campaigns, and do whatever else you read about, you'll soon find yourself more spread out than Bush's army. And you won't be any good at any of it. No, you need to select your targets and implement them fully. Web users are savvy, and detect a half-baked fraud when it's there. Internet marketing can be tremendously effective (and cheap!) but it can't be without time dedication and expertise.

Welcome to Connecting the Tubes - home of the practical Internet marketer.